Forsaken

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israelite in Jerusalem and the army of Assyria is encamped against your walls. All the nations around you whyhaveyouforsakenme_wide_t_nvhave fallen. Jerusalem is the last city standing, your city, Zion, which God had promised to protect.

Isaiah 49:14 speaks of the people’s reaction:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me.”

Forsaken by God. Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. Even Jesus experienced this emotion when upon the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I have felt forsaken. On September 11, 2001, my father was ripped from this world by terrorists. In that moment, I felt forsaken. All that I had believed in, trusted in, was stripped out from under me.

But hear what God spoke through Isaiah, the prophet:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)

He has inscribed you on the palms of His hands…..

This is not just taking a pen and writing your name on His skin. You have been inscribed, that is, engraved. He has taken a blade and carved His palm, wounding His flesh so that forever He will bear the scars of your name upon His hands.

Not only does He know our name, but He bears our scars upon His flesh…forever.

I have journeyed down a dark and empty road: alone, abandoned, and forsaken. But I have found something along this desolate way: a beautiful truth. My foundation is sure…and I am not alone.

We all face trials. We have difficult times. God never promised us otherwise. In fact, He told us that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). But He did not leave us to travel this world without aid.

Listen what the Lord proclaims:

“I, even I, am He who comforts you.” (Isaiah 51:12)

Now this next part is a little condemning to me…God says:

“Who are you that you should be afraid?”

I have been afraid. I am sure you have too. We live in a world full of terror. But who are we that we should be afraid when the Lord is our God? If we are afraid, we do not believe.

“Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.” (Isaiah 51: 12-13)

We have a powerful God. So why do we fear?

What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

“But I am the Lord your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared— The Lord of hosts is His name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” Isaiah 51:15-16)

We do not have a God who looks on from the outside as we struggle along the way. But we have a God who enters with us into the midst of the fire. He walks the troubled path with us, taking us through to the other side. He is our God and we are His people, engraved upon his hand: a perpetual covenant between the Lord and His chosen.

So as you travel the journey of this earthly life, remember: you are not forsaken.

~ Susan

Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)If you would like to learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or your area retailers.

 

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It’s In the Works…

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been asked by several readers when they can expect my novel to be available. With this in mind, I thought I would take a moment to update everyone on the progress I have been making.

At present, THE STONE OF EBENEZER (book one in the TRILOGY OF KINGS series) is in the hands of my editor. She has informed me that she is approximately half way through her edits. She knows you are waiting, but really, give her a break, it is a long novel.

Trilogy of Kings: the Anointed One

The book cover design has been chosen. My illustrator is tweaking the drawing to meet my demanding criteria. Once she receives my approval, then off she goes to fully detail and digitalize the image. I think you will like what she is creating.

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After my manuscript is returned to me, I will have to go through each edit and make corrections. This will take some time. This will be the final rewrite of the novel and the hope is to present the reader a well-written, clean copy (no typos, grammatical errors, etc.).

Then the manuscript is handed over to the publisher. The publisher takes the manuscript and formats it for eBook or print. The final cover design will be applied. And voila, you have a novel ready for reading!

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So as far as predicting when THE STONE OF EBENEZER will be available, well, that is hard to say. But it is in the works and I feel good about saying sometime this year.

If you need something to do while you wait, read my non-fiction book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story).

~ Susan

Just to let you in on a little secret – this week I finished the first draft of THE ANOINTED ONE, the second in the TRIOLOGY OF KINGS series.

 

 

Top 30 Finalists of the Aspiring Authors Writing Contest

I am pleased and honored to announce that my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, has been selected as a finalist in the WestBow Press and The Parable Group Aspiring Authors Writing Contest. This is the second honor for this manuscript. On to round two – The winners will be announced on June 21, 2014.

The Stone of Ebenezer

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths that should not be forsaken. A story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle. 

~     ~     ~

Revenge. His blood burns with a shaking rage.He does not forget.

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong. The appetite of the bloodthirsty Philistines is not yet satisfied.

In the days of the last judge of Israel, from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a sweeping saga of loss and revenge. This extraordinary tale from the Bible is brought to life, woven together in a tapestry of details, accurately portrayed in light of historical, archeological, and cultural landscapes.

As nations clash in a struggle for regional dominance, two men, on opposite sides, each strive to overcome the past and reconcile faith in his god.

Beyond the Biblical account of the conflict at Aphek and the ensuing trouble that follows the Ark of the Covenant, this story transcends to the post-9/11 world and the crisis of faith brought about by loss and grief. THE STONE OF EBENEZER moves beyond the field of battle, looking intimately into the hearts and minds of those dwelling within opposing nations. Influenced by the works of Tolkien and Dickens, and in the vein of Hadassah: One Night with the King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen, this Biblical fiction, takes the reader on a journey that spans the breadth of twenty years.

An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Foreword written by Rev. Judith Wiegman


 ~ Susan

Finalist in the 2011 and 2012
Women of Faith
writing contest

 

 

 

 

Foreword to THE STONE OF EBENEZER

In the days of the last judge of Israel, from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a thrilling saga of loss and revenge. As nations clash in a struggle for regional dominance, two men, on opposite sides, each strive to overcome the past and reconcile faith in his god.

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I am truly fortunate to have experienced such unfailing support in writing this novel. With pleasure, I here present the foreword to THE STONE OF EBENEZER, written by my good friend and mentor, Rev. Judith Wiegman. Her enthusiasm for my effort is overwhelming; she is a constant source of guidance and strength.

So without further adieu, the FOREWORD:

~ ~ ~

As I begin this Foreword, I am reminded of the call from Susan when she completed her manuscript “The Stone of Ebenezer.”  Months before, she had contacted me to pray about writing the Foreword; a request that aroused a feeling of deep responsibility.  I am a pastor, author, and faith writer columnist but this was more than a writing assignment, more than a column for the newspaper, it was a call from Susan’s heart to mine; one I accepted with feelings of immense humility.

Susan and I met when as a children’s pastor; I taught her three children in a Dallas area church. Our mutual love for prayer, music, and writing, bound our hearts and minds together as kindred spirits. One summer I learned of Susan’s love for biblical, historical accuracy when she created booths for a children’s vacation Bible school. The children were intrigued to step back in time and experience life in the little village of Nazareth where Jesus grew in “wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and men.”[1] 

I agonized with Susan and her family upon learning how deeply they were all wounded two years prior to our meeting in the powerful tragedy of September 11, 2001.  They were forced to travel a journey, not of their choice, but theirs just the same. One of the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon was her father, Stanley R. Hall.  I prayed diligently for her as she struggled to publish her first book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN. I share her grief each time I pick up the book and re-read any portion.

During our times together, Susan would share about another “book” gathering momentum in her heart and head.  As an author I could certainly relate and was not surprised when she completed her second work, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.  Susan sent this message: “I am sending the manuscript certified mail. It is always a frightening thing to put your manuscript in the mail. It is like sending your child away unsupervised.” Her choice of words struck a memory in my thoughts as they wandered to an Old Testament mother who placed her child in a basket made of bulrushes and “sent him away” unsupervised.  As the mother gave the basket a small push, she trusted God to provide a person that would receive the child and care for him. [2]

I could picture Susan as the manuscript left her hands in Texas headed for mine in Pennsylvania. It arrived! Overwhelmed by excitement, I signed for the treasured box.  I held it in my hands, called immediately to announce its safe arrival and curled up in a sunny spot to begin an incredible journey that began long ago in Ancient Israel. A journey traveled by Old Testament characters, re-born in Susan’s heart, now ready for anxious readers such as myself.

As I began to read, I envisioned the daunting task Susan faced as the overwhelming “I must write” feeling flooded her mind repeatedly in the early dawn. I marveled at the countless hours of research she logged in on this work. Her dedication allowed her to portray the events found in I Samuel chapters 4-7. Its amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate. The Bible states “So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas died.”[3] God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.

Portrayed in her book are characters brought forward from Old Testament antiquity and presented face to face for the reader to experience.  This novel draws the reader to “be at home” in the Old Testament setting. Woven throughout its pages, the reader will readily see the hand of God as it moved in times past to protect the ark of God and the chosen children, Israel.  It will allow the reader to grasp the fact that God’s faithfulness to His Word in both blessing and judgment has not changed and can be claimed by us today.

I am honored to introduce this work by Susan Van Volkenburgh and to encourage her to pursue the completion of the series, TRILOGY OF KINGS.

~ FOREWORD BY: Rev. Judith Wiegman

Ordained Minister, Church of the Nazarene, 2003

Women’s Conference and Retreat Speaker

Faith Writer Columnist, Jotting Judi, The Dalhart Texan Newspaper 2008-2013

Author: Featured in Teatime Stories for Mothers, River Oak Publishing; Tulsa, Oklahoma

Featured in God’s Vitamin C for the Hurting Spirit, Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, PA

Recent Children’s Books: The Trail of the Wooden Horse,  A Stranger at the Gate, The Night of the Storm, Beacon Hill Press, KC, MO


[1] Luke 2:52

[2] Exodus 1:22-2:10

[3] 1 Samuel 4:10-11

THE STONE OF EBENEZER has been selected as a finalist in the Women of Faith 2012 Writing Contest.

To learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, LifeWay or your area retailers.

Epiphany at Three in the Morning ~

In the stillness of the night I slumber, peaceful resting after a tiring day. Then suddenly I awake from a sound sleep. It is three in the morning. I roll over and try to go back to sleep, yet it alludes me. As I lay there, wrestling with my mind, I begin to think about my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

"Night Moon In Big Space" by nuttakit

“Night Moon In Big Space” by nuttakit

Over the past month, I have been jumping through hoops in an attempt to meet the many varying requirements preferred by literary agents in an attempt to interest just one of them in my story. It is a daunting venture. I am overwhelmed in my effort to take a manuscript of over 90,000-words and condense it down to just a few sentences.

“Dear Lord,” I pray, “please help THE STONE OF EBENZER find a home. Help me to know without a doubt how and by whom it is to be published. And give me the fortitude to see it through.”

At present, I have just completed writing chapter summaries of my novel. Each chapter has been stripped to a mere three to four sentences, all of which is to reflect my voice. Just the bare-bones….but how can you really appreciate the beauty of something when the outer covering is stripped away?

Well, I digress. This all leads to the point. As I lay in my bed in the middle of the night, I review the chapter summaries in my mind. My novel runs like water through my restless brain. It is then that I am struck. I have an epiphany as it were. I am blown away. I have always wondered why the story had to be written. THE STONE OF EBENEZER was not what I had intended to write, yet the tale kept pressing me until I finally gave in and wrote it down.

This story is my story. Without realizing it, I wrote a tale that is an allegory of the personal struggles I have faced. It is a story of loss and resolution, of moving beyond the tragedy and trauma of the past to find a peaceful place to rest. As the main character worked through his crisis of faith, I journeyed with him, cried with him, loved with him.

I began writing THE STONE OF EBENEZER, after the loss of my father on September 11, 2001. Well, really, I was trying to write about King Saul, but the story took a different turn. King Saul will have to wait.  The novel seemed to have a life of its own, its purpose not clear to me until I awoke at three in the morning.

I do not know why I had not seen it before. Working beneath my mind, I unwittingly transcended beyond the distress in my own life. Through it all, I have reached resolution.

I invite you to join me on this pilgrimage, and within the pages of this epic tale, may you find a place to rest.

Let the journey begin….THE STONE OF EBENEZER.

~ Susan

To learn more about my experience with September 11, 2001, read my book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, LifeWay or your area retailers.

Silent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)

PrefaceSilent Resolve and the God Who Let Me Down (a 9/11 story)

So long I have been in writing this book that I hope my words will still hold some resonance upon the reader. I have tried many times to begin, but each time I drew up short. I was not ready. Each time I began, a wave of grief overwhelmed me so that I had to put my story away in order to continue to fulfill the responsibilities my life required of me, for I had not yet felt the full measure of my grief. I feel deep within myself that now is the time. It may not be for the benefit of others, though I hope there are those who will be comforted by my words, but it is for my own healing that this story must be told. I cannot promise answers to the questions such a tragedy awakens. Yet, I feel strongly that I need to produce something in regard to my father’s death. In some small way, it is as though the writing of this book will ensure that his death was not in vain. He would have gladly laid down his life for another. If through the words held within this book I can help one person, then I will feel that his loss has not been without a purpose. My hope is that in sharing my journey, some comfort, remedy, or resolution may come to the reader.

I do not claim to have all the answers or that I have grown so wise as to instruct others. In no way am I implying this is the way everyone should feel; that this is what everyone should believe. I only know what I have experienced and the conclusions, if any, I have reached. Read on and know only that this is what has come to me.

Contents

Preface. viii

Episode 1 – Forever Changed. 1

Episode 2 – Awakened. 9

Episode 3 – Tears. 18

Episode 4 – Silence. 33

Episode 5 – Seeking After His Sheep. 41

Episode 6 –Through the Veil 50

Episode 7 – Silent Resolve. 58

Episode 8 – The Face of Evil 79

Episode 9 – Not Alone. 86

Episode 10 – God’s Sovereignty. 98

Episode 11 – All in His Hands. 105

Episode 12 – For Such a Time. 118

Episode 13 – Resolution. 128

Episode 14 – Even So. 139

Episode 15 – Epilogue. 144

Notes 148

~ Susan